Hero Gen. Jerry Boykin Fired By College for Telling the Truth About Transgender Ideology

Hampden-Sydney College caves to "transgender" ideology and political correctness.

Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin (Ret.)

By Peter Wood Published on May 20, 2016

Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin (Ret.) has fallen, one of the first casualties of the Restroom Wars.

General Boykin, one of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force (which he later commanded) also led the Green Berets and the Army’s Special Warfare Center — which is founded on the principle, “Humans are more important than hardware.”

But it is hardware that has been his undoing — audio hardware. In March, speaking at an event in Florida, the General remarked in the gruff way that generals sometimes do:

Somebody will be recording this and this’ll be on YouTube before it’s all over with. But I will tell you what: the first man that walks in my daughter’s bathroom, he ain’t going to have to worry about the surgery.

He was almost right. It wasn’t on YouTube, but an audio recording of his declaration soon reached the ears of an alumnus of Hampden-Sydney College, an all-male college in Virginia, where for the last nine years General Boykin has held the Wheat Visiting Professorship in Leadership. The alumnus rallied some 150 people who wrote to the college’s interim president Dennis G. Stevens, expressing their outrage at what they said was the General’s threat of violence against the transgendered.

President Stevens, who is about as much a profile in courage as the typical college president, promptly threw General Boykin under the bus. Without discussing the matter with the general or giving him an opportunity to reply to his detractors, Stevens sent a note to Boykin telling him that his contract would not be renewed. Because Boykin was untenured, this sort of peremptory dismissal is perfectly legal. There is no formal right of “due process” for an adjunct.

But that is not the end of the story. Boykin’s firing has sparked outrage among social conservatives, who hold him in high regard both for his military leadership and his public stands on various issues. Among other things, Boykin is executive vice president of the Family Research Council, which has been targeted as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for “defaming gays and lesbians.” SPLC singles out Boykin on its list of “extremists” for his views on Muslims too. SPLC’s own reputation as a clearinghouse for targets of progressive wrath suggests these labels need to be taken with a high sodium diet. But to understand the swiftness with which President Stevens severed Boykin’s contract, it is important to know that he has been in the American left’s line of fire for some time.

In March 2013, the college’s “Young Democrats” posted a public letter to General Boykin in the Hampden-Sydney student newspaper, denouncing him for his opposition to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. They wrote: “While we acknowledge your freedom of speech, we remind you that your position renders you a representative of this institution.” In other words — in the view of these students — freedom of speech stops at the point where someone holds an academic position. They continued:

Frankly, the fact you would make such ill-informed, inconsiderate, and offensive tirades, in whatever capacity, makes you a poor representative of Hampden-Sydney and the students and faculty who make up our community. It would truly be a travesty and embarrassment if one outside of our community were to hear your bellicose words and assume that it reflects the culture and character of the Hampden-Sydney community.

The partisan attacks on Boykin continued, but Hampden-Sydney College seemed to take them in stride until now.

What changed the calculus?

The political landscape. Progressives put “transgender rights” at the top of their agenda. The Obama administration’s pointed attack on the laws of North Carolina made clear how this would end.

Perhaps the capstone came when Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education issued a letter on May 13. It said that “to create and sustain inclusive, supportive, safe, and nondiscriminatory communities for all students,” henceforth the nation’s schools (all of the nation’s schools) will have to permit transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms “consistent with their gender identity.” That means biological male students will be permitted to use girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, etc.

The theory of “gender identity” at play in this pronouncement is a dubious and self-contradictory concoction of college gender study departments. It attempts to twist a law about “sex discrimination” (Title IX of the Higher Education Act) to cover not sex, but “gender.” Gender is supposed to differ from sex in that it is “socially constructed,” i.e. made up or invented. But the “transgendered” are portrayed as having an identity that is fixed by nature, so that it isn’t “gender” at all, but a new kind of sex. Confused? Not nearly so confused as the people who dream up this nonsense and then try to give it the status of federal law.

But is it really federal law? Secretary Lhamon was unable to offer any statutory basis for her power-grab, although she gamely goes through the motions of claiming that Title IX mandates boys in girls’ locker rooms. Congress passed no such law. The courts made no such ruling. Nor is there even a regulatory basis for this new rule. Lhamon bypassed all that with the Obama administration’s cute trick of issuing a “Dear Colleague” letter. That is, the rule is dressed up in drag. It is pretending to be friendly advice, not a cold regulation. But a school that ignores the friendly advice runs straight into Lhamon’s warning that the Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice stand ready to “find a Title IX violation” compliance with which is “a condition of receiving Federal funds.”

To be clear, Lhamon’s “Dear Colleague Letter” on the rights of transgendered students came too late to be the direct cause of General Boykin’s dismissal. But the letter crystalizes what has been obvious for the last few years. The American left’s attack on the norms of relations between the sexes was never going to stop with gay marriage. It took a little time, however, before “discrimination” against the “transgendered” emerged as the next frontier. But it has now arrived in the form of an unprecedented reach for power by Secretary Lhamon.

It would be a good idea if Hampden-Sydney College reconsidered its faint-hearted decision to dismiss General Boykin. If it stands, the dismissal itself will change the character of the college. A robustly independent, single-sex institution will rightly be seen as just another domino in the long line of politically correct colleges that cringe before the changing fashions of progressive thought. No principle can long stand this slavish desire to please. Hampden-Sydney will be, academically, another hamster in the cage. It should reverse this injustice promptly. [UPDATE: In response to public outcry, the college has offered to reinstate Gen. Boykin.]

But if that were the only outcome of this affair, it would be a lost opportunity. What the public should really demand is an end to the autocratic rule of Secretary Lhamon at the Office for Civil Rights. If that office is to play a legitimate public role, it must abide by the rule of law. Do we in fact need the Office for Civil Rights at all? It certainly won’t disappear in the waning months of the Obama administration, but its long history of bad policy making argues that the country might well be better off without it.

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